Education, life expectancy and pension age

A comparison of the Netherlands with other European countries

In all European countries, including the Netherlands, life expectancy is lower among people with a low than high socioeconomic position. The differences in healthy life expectancy are even bigger. Because these differences are not taken into account in the statutory retirement age, this is a potential source of inequality between population groups. The aim of this paper is to map out this problem from a European-comparative perspective. Our data show that there is a considerable gap in life expectancy in all European countries, and life expectancy without disability, between low and high educated people. Low educated people live considerably shorter than the high educated, and within that shorter life they also spend a larger number of years with disability. The Netherlands belongs to a group of countries here the gap in life expectancy is relatively small, but life expectancy without disability in the Netherlands is not smaller than in other Western European countries. It is the life expectancy without limitations that gives the most immediately visible bottleneck when it comes to the retirement age. While many high educated people only experience health-related limitations after the statutory retirement age, many low educated people already have these limitations well before the statutory retirement age. This will create problems when the statutory retirement age is raised rapidly, as currently planned in the Netherlands, and needs to be addressed in current discussions about pension reform.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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